Key information and statistics

Key information and statistics on sight loss.

Sight loss data tool

Our Sight Loss Data Tool gives factual information about sight loss for each region and local authority in England supporting the work done by the UK Vision Strategy. This is available for you to use free of charge.

Evidence-based reviews

Our Evidence-based reviews look at the common issues and challenges that affect blind and partially sighted people in particular age groups.

Eye health data summary report

This excellent summary of eye health data provides a snapshot of what is being measured, counted and published about national eye care services.

Sight loss statistics postcard

A number of sight loss sector organisations have assessed and agreed a series of key facts for everyone to use.

Sight loss

How many people have sight loss in the UK?
Almost two million people in the UK are living with sight loss. That's approximately one person in 30.

Who has sight loss?
Sight loss affects people of all ages, but as we get older we are increasingly likely to experience sight loss.

  • One in five people aged 75 and over are living with sight loss.
  • One in two people aged 90 and over are living with sight loss.
  • Nearly two-thirds of people living with sight loss are women.
  • People from black and minority ethnic communities are at greater risk of some of the leading causes of sight loss.
  • Adults with learning disabilities are 10 times more likely to be blind or partially sighted than the general population.

What are the main causes of blindness in adults?
Age-related macular degeneration is by far the leading cause of blindness in adults. Other significant causes of sight loss are glaucoma, cataracts and diabetic retinopathy.

Future projections

How will the number of people with sight loss change in the future?
The number of people in the UK with sight loss is set to increase dramatically in the future. As we get older we are increasingly likely to experience sight loss, and the UK population is ageing. In addition, there is a growing incidence in key underlying causes of sight loss, such as obesity and diabetes. This means that, without action, the numbers of people with sight problems in the UK are likely to increase dramatically over the next 25 years.

It is predicted that by 2020 the number of people with sight loss will rise to over 2,250,000. By 2050, the number of people with sight loss in the UK will double to nearly four million.

Prevention

Many older people are needlessly living with sight loss. Almost two thirds of sight loss in older people is caused by refractive error and cataract.

Both conditions can be diagnosed by a simple eye test. In most cases the person's sight could be improved by prescribing correct glasses or cataract surgery.

Over 50 per cent of sight loss can be avoided.

Cost of sight loss

What is the cost of sight loss to the UK economy each year?
In 2008 sight loss cost at least £6.5 billion, and this is likely to increase as the number of people with sight loss increases. This figure does not include the cost of sight loss in children.

This cost is made up of:

  • £2.14 billion in direct health care costs, such as eye clinics, prescriptions and operations.
  • £4.34 billion in indirect costs, such as unpaid carer costs and reduced employment rates.

Further information

For more information on the number of people living with sight loss and costs please see our research reports:

Registration

How many people are registered as blind or partially sighted?
There are around 360,000 people registered as blind or partially sighted in the UK.

How does the registered population relate to the number of people with sight loss?
The almost two million people living with sight loss is an estimate based on how commonly different eye conditions occur. It takes into account factors such as age, gender and ethnicity, and builds up a picture of the numbers of people who are living with significant sight loss in the UK. This picture not only includes people who are registered, but also those who are waiting for treatment, those whose sight could be improved, those who have not registered for whatever reason and people whose sight loss is not at a level that allows them to register. At RNIB we believe that almost two million is a much more accurate reflection of the numbers living with sight loss than using registration figures.

Realities of sight loss

  • Only eight per cent of registered blind and partially sighted people were offered formal counselling by the eye clinic, either at the time of diagnosis or later.
  • In the year after registration, less than a quarter (23 per cent) of people who lost their sight say they were offered mobility training to help them get around independently.
  • Almost half of blind and partially sighted people feel 'moderately' or 'completely' cut off from people and things around them.
  • Older people with sight loss are almost three times more likely to experience depression than people with good vision.
  • Only one-third of registered blind and partially sighted people of working age are in employment.

Any more questions?

If you have any additional questions then you will find a lot more information in our Research reports section. Alternatively, you can email research@rnib.org.uk with any enquiries.

Related links

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